Too much or too little weight gain during pregnancy can place you and your baby at risk of complications during pregnancy, at birth and later in life. Eating well and being active during pregnancy is important for your health and the health of your baby.

Healthy eating during pregnancy

Healthy eating is especially important during pregnancy – for your own wellbeing, as well as your baby’s. Eating ‘unhealthy’ foods, such as those high in fat and sugar, may cause your unborn baby to develop a preference for these foods during childhood and later life.

Eating healthy during pregnancy often just means changing the amount of different foods you eat so that your diet is varied and nutritious.

Myths

Myth: I need to start ‘eating for two’.

There is no need to ‘eat for two’ during pregnancy.

  • During the first 3 months of your pregnancy you do not need to eat any more than before you were pregnant
  • After the first 3 months you may need to slightly increase the amount you eat; for example an extra piece of fruit each day
  • The amount of food you need to eat will depend on your weight before pregnancy and how active you are
  • While you may not need to start eating ‘more’ it is important to eat more nutritious food throughout your pregnancy

Myth: Cravings are a sign of what the baby needs.

  • Some women experience cravings for certain foods during pregnancy. There is no evidence that cravings are a sign that the baby needs certain foods
  • Try keeping your cravings in check: limiting the quantities of foods which are high in fat or sugar and make sure your baby is getting the nutrients they need
  • Listen to your hunger cues and try to only eat if you’re actually hungry.

What should you eat during pregnancy?

Similar to when you are not pregnant, a healthy diet is one which includes foods from each of the five food groups below. A healthy diet also includes plenty of water and limiting ‘extra’ foods such as chips, chocolate and sugary drinks.

Our Eat healthy page has lots of information and top tips on how you can eat a balance diet.

There are some foods that you should avoid during pregnancy, see your Having a Baby book for more details. If you are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding, not drinking alcohol at all is considered the safest option.

Special considerations during pregnancy

You will find that your hunger changes as your baby grows.

  • At first you may feel nauseated, and may find it is difficult to eat a healthy variety of food.
  • Once you regain your appetite you may feel hungrier than normal. It’s important to stock up on healthy snacks to keep you going.
  • Later in the pregnancy you may find it becomes difficult to eat because the baby is taking up more space. Eating little but often can help.

How to avoid eating too much

  • Be aware of your hunger levels and appetite to avoid eating too much during pregnancy
  • Eat healthy foods, or small portions, to avoid gaining too much weight during pregnancy

 

Physical Activity during pregnancy

Staying active is a great way to maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy. As long as it is at a level at which you are comfortable, exercise will not harm your baby and can actually help you to cope with pregnancy and childbirth.

Exercise can help to combat some of the common complaints of pregnancy, including:

  • tiredness
  • varicose veins
  • swollen feet and ankles

Benefits of eating healthily and being active during pregnancy

Benefits include:

  • Better sleep
  • Less lower back pain
  • Less nausea
  • Better bowel habits
  • More energy
  • Feel less stressed or anxious
  • A shorter, easier and more active labour
  • Easier to return to your pre-pregnancy fitness and weight.

Most exercises are safe as long as you:

  • Take things easy
  • Stop when you are tired
  • Drink plenty of water and take care not to overheat
  • Wear suitable clothing
  • Remember to ‘warm up’ and ‘cool down’ to prevent injury
  • Stop the activity if you experience any pain that doesn’t settle quickly

If you’re doing an exercise class, make sure your teacher is qualified and let them know you’re pregnant

It’s a good idea to talk to your Get Healthy in Pregnancy Service health coach and your doctor or midwife to make sure there are no health problems which might prevent you from being active during your pregnancy.

Remember to exercise at a level that suits you.

Your Having a Baby Book, Antenatal Care and Get Healthy in Pregnancy Service Coach are all available to provider more information and advice around the types or exercises you should and shouldn’t be doing during pregnancy.

 

Weight gain during pregnancy

Why is managing your weight gain during pregnancy important?

It is important for your health and for the health of your baby to eat well and stay active during pregnancy.

Too much or too little weight gain during pregnancy can place you and your baby at risk of complications during the pregnancy, at birth and later in life.

How much weight should I put on during pregnancy?

  • This depends on your body mass index (BMI) before you were pregnant
  • Your BMI is calculated by dividing your weight (kg) by your height (m) squared. Our online calculator is available.
  • Your doctor or midwife can also help you estimate your prepregnancy BMI
  • If you have a higher pre-pregnancy BMI, you won’t need to gain much weight during your pregnancy as you will already have the energy reserves needed for pregnancy and breastfeeding

Weight gain guide

Single Pregnancies

As a general rule, you don’t need to eat more than usual during the first 3 months (the first trimester) and you should only put on 1-2 kg during this time.

 

Pre–Pregnancy BMI (kg/m2)Overall weight gain during pregnancy (kg)

<18.5

12.5-18.0 

18.5-24.9

11.5-16.0

25-29.9 

7.0-11.5

30+

5.0-9.0

Source: Queensland Health (2010) Statewide Maternity and Neonatal Clinical Guideline: Obesity

 

Multiple pregnancies

Pre–Pregnancy BMI (kg/m2)Overall weight gain during pregnancy (kg)

<18.5

Talk to your dietitian or obstetrician

18.5-24.9

17-25

25-29.9

14-23

30+

11-19

Source: RANZCOG (2013) College Statement on the Management of Obesity in Pregnancy

 

Weigh yourself regularly during pregnancy to make sure you are on track to achieving a healthy weight gain.

Tip: If you do not have scales at home, ask your antenatal care provider when you go in for routine check-ups if you can use the scales in their clinic.

Why gaining the right amount of weight is important

There is also increasing evidence to support so called ‘foetal programming’ i.e. that the nutrients babies receive before they are born influences their health later in life. Babies with abnormally low or high birth weight in particular may be at increased risk of obesity and many chronic preventable diseases as adults.

If you GAIN TOO LITTLE WEIGHT during pregnancy

You are at higher risk of:

  • Going into labour too early
  • Having a baby that is smaller than normal
  • Having problems with breastfeeding your baby

If you GAIN TOO MUCH WEIGHT during pregnancy

Your baby is at higher risk of:

  • Being born larger than normal
  • Having an unusually low blood glucose level at birth which may require treatment
  • Being overweight or obese as a child
  • Being overweight or obese as they become adults

You are at higher risk of:

  • Pre-eclampsia – a condition in pregnancy which causes high blood pressure and can put both you and your baby at risk
  • Gestational (pregnancy) diabetes - which can cause problems during pregnancy and birth as well as the potential for long-term health issues for you and your baby
  • Blood clots in your legs or pelvis
  • Requiring a birth by caesarean section and the associated complications such as infection and blood loss
  • Breastfeeding problems
  • Not being able to lose your baby weight, which increases the likelihood of being overweight or obese in the future.

 

Alcohol and pregnancy

According to the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council Guidelines, for women who arepregnant or planning a pregnancy,not drinking is the safest option.

Why give up alcohol?

Drinking alcohol during pregnancyincreases the risk of miscarriage,stillbirth and premature birth. It mayalso cause foetal alcohol spectrumdisorders (FASD) in the unborn baby,affecting brain development, physicaldevelopment, learning and behaviour.

There is no cure for FASD and its effects last a lifetime.

After birth, the babies of alcohol dependent mothers can suffer withdrawal symptoms, including tremors, irritability and fits.

Speak to your Get Healthy in Pregnancy Service coach today to see how they can help you to stop drinking during your pregnancy. Call 1300 806 258 today or sign up online

Alcohol and Breastfeeding

According to the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council Guidelines, for women who are breastfeeding, not drinking is the safest option.

Alcohol gets into your breast milk from your blood, moving freely from the blood to the breast milk. It can reduce the milk supply, and can cause irritability, poor feeding and sleep disturbance in the baby. You shouldavoid alcohol in the first month afterdelivery until breastfeeding is going well and there is some sort of pattern to your baby’s feeding.

A number of factors affect how much alcohol gets into your breast milk, including:

  • The strength and amount of alcohol in your drink
  • What and how much you’ve eaten
  • How much you weigh
  • How quickly you are drinking

GET HEALTHY TODAY!

Talk to a Get Healthy Service Health Coach on 1300 806 258 or start your journey here! Alternatively you can ask your Midwife, GP or Obstetrician for a referral to the Get Healthy Service at your next appointment.

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